Toronto Film Festival 2019: Beyond Black Lives Matter, “Waves” and “American Son” depict a netherworld where the upper middle class black experience teeters on the edge of tragedy
Two films in the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival explore the painful pressures placed on upwardly mobile African American families seeking to get ahead in society. The families may push their kids hard to overachieve, these films say, but they must balance that against the intolerable pressures those efforts may place on them, particularly their sons.
In “Waves,” written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, handsome high school senior Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is close to the gold ring — he trains hard as a competitive wrestler, does his homework, drives a cool car and has a cool girlfriend. His overachieving dad (Sterling K Brown) pushes Tyler still harder — maybe too hard.
But, his dad tells him, it’s for his own good. Life won’t give Tyler anything, he explains in a tough-love exchange. Learn this lesson early, dad says: A young African American man has to perform better than his non-black peers to get ahead. But the father is so busy ensuring his son’s future that he doesn’t notice that Tyler is cracking under the pressure. He’s training too hard and using drugs to cover up a sports injury; he’s also unable to cope with an unexpected turn with…
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